Bolton Labour councillor Guy Harkin, who represents the Crompton ward, served as the city’s Mayor from 2012-13. Now he is facing potential action after clashing with Conservative opponent Zoë Kirk-Robinson during the meeting. Kirk-Robinson, who is transgender, complains that Harkin misgendered her several times using male gender pronouns.
She said that it made her feel insulted and hurt because she transitioned many years ago and her opponent has never known her as a man. She demanded Harkin to apologize. Harkin answered that he is definitely not transphobic, one of his best friends is transgender. He added: “I am told I used ‘he’ instead of the appropriate ‘she’ twice, not repeatedly, or someone would surely have raised a point of order – and I would have apologised there and then.”
Ms Kirk-Robinson considers the problem of homophobia and transphobia to be unsolved in the city. She says: “We have very high levels of hate crime; which prompted Bolton Pride to be set up last year, to raise awareness of the problem and work to address it. When Councillors feel safe and secure enough to engage in transphobia as a means to attack their rivals, it spurs on the bigots in the town. They see a member of the highest public forum in the area attacking people for their gender identity, and they feel it’s okay to do it as well… it’s like a vicious cycle.”